When The Secret Lives of Men was cancelled, Sorkin called Brad with condolences and a proposal: to play the role of Josh Lyman on his new one-hour drama. Sorkin immediately sent Brad the script, and David describes the character quite accurately: "Josh was charming, caustic, explosive, sexy, capable of moral outrage, and a comic to boot -- an immensely appealing character and one with whom Brad felt an immediate kinship. In fact, Sorkin says now, he wrote Josh with Brad in mind." That much seems very clear. Sorkin: "I tried to throw it in his strike zone." And Sorkin succeeded; Brad wanted the part very desperately. But he still had to audition, and he prepared as if his life depended on it. Naturally, he knew his lines inside out, but he rehearsed in various states of mind to be prepared for anything, and "anticipated being very uncomfortable in the room so [he] would be comfortable." He auditioned for John Levey, the Warner Brothers casting director, as well as Sorkin and executive producer Thomas Schlamme. Both Schlamme and Levey knew Whitford from his compelling turn as Sean O'Brien, a father-to-be whose wife dies during childbirth in the "Love's Labors Lost" episode of ER. The author indicates that Schlamme and Levey weren't quite as chuffed about Whitford as Sorkin was; he was "just another name on the list." Whitford blew them away, cleverly using every audition trick he had gleaned in his many years of experience. David reports that Brad's three-man audience laughed out loud, and that Sorkin left him a message at home: "You hit it out of the park."
But then, for what must have seemed an interminable number of weeks, Brad didn't hear a thing. Some of you will no doubt be surprised, if not outraged, to hear that Levey didn't think Brad had sufficient sex appeal to play a leading man on a network TV show. Some of you may even unkindly suggest that Levey adjust his medication. And Schlamme, for his part, was concerned about whether Brad had "the depth to carry off scenes he knew Sorkin would eventually have to write if The West Wing were ever going to be more than a simple romantic comedy." (Given this original concern, Schlamme must be very pleased indeed with episodes such as "Noel.") Brad, naturally, was unaware of these issues, and "reluctantly" agreed to audition again, this time for Levey and producer John Wells, whom David describes as "arguably the most powerful producer in television." And this time, he was to audition with Moira Kelly, who played Mandy "Amandeleine" Hampton in the first season of The West Wing. Now, hang on, kids, because it gets a little scary right about now, and then a little scarier, and I know some of you may be rather perturbed. But it all comes out okay. You know it does. Still, I'll understand if you need to get your blankies. The audition with Kelly did not go well, and afterward, Levey made it clear to Brad's agent that it was "not going to happen for Brad." Lord, as if we didn't have enough reasons to hate the character of Mandy! It boggles the mind that a lack of chemistry with Moira/Mandy could have scuttled this whole deal. ["No kidding; it's not like she's a TV brand name." -- Wing Chun]